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New York Lockdown Diaries
Precious Okoyomon and Tavi Gevinson by Daniel Weiss, styling Emma Wyman; Giovanna Flores and Becky Akinyode by Thistle Brown, styling Andrew Sauceda.Precious Okoyomon and Tavi Gevinson by Daniel Weiss, styling Emma Wyman; Giovanna Flores and Becky Akinyode by Thistle Brown, styling Andrew Sauceda.

Lockdown Diaries: New York

New York Lockdown Diaries

Tavi Gevinson, Precious Okoyomon, Coco Gordon Moore, and more NY figures share their experiences from the city that was never supposed to sleep

We’re living through unprecedented times – the current, very unusual alteration to the way we live life right now calls for solidarity, togetherness, and communication. So on Dazedwe’ve created the #AloneTogether community. Across the days, weeks, or months of the coronavirus pandemic and concurrent isolation measures, we’re connecting with our audience to offer URL experiences, art, and advice made with you and talent from across music, fashion, art, tech, and politics. We may be alone, but we are together

When we relaunched Dazed this February, we wanted to pay tribute to our favourite New Yorkers – the figures who, against the odds, prove that the underground spirit of generations past is still tangible in certain of the city’s writers, musicians, artists and, really, all the girls and boys about town that have always flocked there. Little did anyone know that the concept of being “about town” would cease to exist just a month after that issue was on shelves. 

While other parts of the state are beginning to reopen, New York City’s lockdown is being extended by at least another two weeks, until May 28 – meaning the city’s residents have been in effective lockdown for at least two months. This is unsurprising given how hard the city has been hit by the pandemic, called by some the coronavirus capital of the world. But the city has always forged new creative life out of its crises. For the figures we caught up with last week – whose visual and written journal entries they share here to conclude our Lockdown Diaries series – legendary poet Eileen Myles’ words from the spring issue might be of particular comfort now: ”My favourite NY myth is that you missed it. That it was really good ten years ago – I got that in the 70s, about the 60s. People are always telling new people you really missed the past, the really good New York. I like it here. Like a dream, NY is always fleeing and getting refilled.”

THISTLE BROWN, STYLIST AND PHOTOGRAPHER

Thistle Brown, Friday May 15: I’m like a landlocked teenager again. That anxious echo of missing out on something that doesn’t yet exist. I have a friend in my quarantine bubble and we ride city bikes that blast music from the clip speaker. The smell of trees now overwhelm the usual stench of trash. No more short whiffs of hot nuts on Bleecker Street. The rats play in the day. Times Square is still switched on but dazzling to no audience. It's like that scene in Vanilla Sky. Mood swings into coffee cups. Days are longer but what is time now? I’ve reconnected with old faces, that's nice. I found a printer, that a friend suggested is an easy way to make you feel like you made something. I forgot how nice it was to see things on my walls again. Madonna’s “Where Life Begins” plays and I need to do my laundry. 

TAVI GEVINSON, WRITER AND PERFORMER

Tavi Gevinson, Thursday May 14: I feel OK on days like today where I frame my “work hours” as “you’re at a writing residency” and “After work” as “you’re a teenager who likes alone time.” The fortifyingly mindless, low-stakes-creative teenage activities that are making a comeback are: playlist making, collaging, snail mail. 

I also recognize some of this feeling as teenage on a visceral level. It reminds me of waiting to graduate and move here, six years ago. Hunger and longing and daydreaming. I keep imagining a cathartic night of dancing with all my friends, how we’ll cling to each other and cry tears of joy. Then I read about the scale of what is actually happening and get depressed again. Or I notice a smudge on the wall next to the stove and become astonishingly upset. 

Tonight I looked at my diary from early 2014, when I knew I’d move here and started counting down. I pasted in a lot of glamorous photos, to manifest glamour. I also copied down a lot of passages from Wayne Koestenbaum's last book, and now he has a new one. I include one spread here.

GIOVANNA FLORES, DESIGNER

Giovanna Flores, Thursday May 14: NY has been a good home to me during this quarantine. The streets are empty but the energy of the city is still very loud and present. It really feels as though we are all in this together walking past people on the streets or even alone at home – I feel that. The photo was taken outside of a florist in the city this Mothers Day, where around thirty people were lined up all day – outside and 6ft apart - to buy flowers for their mom.

COCO GORDON MOORE, ARTIST AND POET

Coco Gordon Moore, Sunday May 17: I’ve attached a poem.

PRECIOUS OKOYOMON, ARTIST

Precious Okoyomon, Tuesday May 12: I feel possibly possessed today by the song of the birds... Anne Carson says, “Although all poets aspire to be birds, no bird aspires to be a poet.” 

I know two things to be true nothing is completely onto itself and the miracles are bursting from the sky. a lil bird sings to me come out hello goodbye yes no light dark mirror mirror song, a special song like impregnating the world, like some infinitesimal modality of a new universe itself.

FRANKIE DECAIZA HUTCHINSON, DISCWOMAN COLLECTIVE CO-FOUNDER

Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Wednesday May 13: I am pretty devastated to be honest. Because of my own loss but more the continual loss of people and ethics and morality. I feel like we’re part of the grand unveiling of the depths to which how sinister and corrupt this country is. Of course if you’ve read anything on the history of the United States of America, then you already know how it is, but it’s easy to pretend when the global PR for a country is centred around freedom. The industry I’m a part of has collapsed and there’s nothing to save it but the spirit of the people who are a part of it, so what we have to hold on to is each other, which is now physically impossible. It’s bleak, and it’s not “negative” to accept things as bleak, in fact I think it’s necessary in order for us to grapple with the roots of the greed, corruption, (and) violence and figure out how to fix it.

BECKY AKINYODE, STYLIST

Becky Akinyode, Thursday May 14: I feel like I’m earning my stripes by staying in New York and weathering the storm. I only leave my apartment to get groceries, though sometimes I go for a run or work out at home and that feels good. I’ve been cooking a lot too, and speaking to my psychoanalyst once a week. In the past two months I haven’t seen my family or friends IRL but I speak to them almost every day. Life in quarantine hasn’t been easy and the thing that bothers me the most is how the virus is disproportionately affecting minority communities. The high death rates of Blacks and Hispanics. The way that the police are enforcing social distancing in certain neighborhoods. I’ve seen images of whites at parks lying out in the sun while officers walk around handing out masks. I’ve also seen images of black and brown people being pepper sprayed and dragged in the streets by the police officers for not wearing a mask and ignoring social distancing protocols. This pandemic has made it extremely clear that no matter how much progress is made, the black body will never be safe in America, we are policed, we are denied treatment and we are killed. So every night I say a prayer for my family and my friends and thank God that I lived to see another day. 

My friends, Meriem and Yanni, have been working on this animated series called 2 Lizards and this week I was featured as a new character – here’s a link to the episode, the series is amazing!

AMY ROSE SPIEGEL

Amy Rose Spiegel, Wednesday May 13: On the left is Jonathan Smith; with me is the Mrat. Feeling private and huge. The dog isn't pictured. I’d like to know what more I could do to remember and push back for Ahmaud Arbery when protest isn’t an option. I’m writing my little nothings and applying fake nails to one hand, understanding my luck, giving all of my money away, which, God, I’m sorry to everybody. Remembering Gem Spa. My parents just got over COVID. Since I have luck, the luck is what I try to remember most. ACAB, ARS.

VEGAS, ACTOR

Vegas, Thursday May 7: Today there will be more news of another black community being policed unjustly. Today there will be more news about another brown man being brutalized by a policing system that does not protect and serve them. Today there will be more body bags being donated by our government to Native American reservations than actual medical supplies. Today there will be more whites in middle America protesting for haircuts on stolen land. In the current climate we are in it seems evil is alive and well even prospering through this. However it is times like these where we must stay resilient and stand with all of our brothers and sisters in solidarity. We must not flee or hide from the systems that wants to erase us. We must face it, realize it, and fight it together. There is no denying that change is needed and it is times like this that force the people to change because there is no other option. Revolution has become a part of survival. Education has become a part of survival. Solidarity has become a part of survival. 

DJ WAWA, MUSICIAN

DJ Wawa, Sunday May 10: There’s a ton of reasons why I love New York, a big one is because no matter what is happening in the world, you’re always close to some fun parties and good people. Unfortunately coronavirus has targeted my access to both for the foreseeable future. Brooklyn, where I live, feels like a twilight zone. The idea of night clubs seems to get farther away everyday. The interactions and lives we are all expecting are a vaccination away, which could be 1.5 years at generous estimate. 

I miss my friends! I usually like to hibernate in the Winter and listen to a lot of music, kind of get a new set together and work on making new tunes. And now that we’re going deep into spring I feel angsty!

Some of the most fun I’ve had has been popping into DJ Stream chat rooms that my friends are in and trying my best to feel like we’re all at the club together. It’s tough though. I’m naturally a really social person and music goes hand in hand with that. It’s definitely been a struggle to work on one without the other.

That said I’ve been reading Love Saves the Day by Tim Lawrence and DMing my friends and trying to video chat with as many all over the world as possible. I could go on and on but I hope everyone is safe and looking out for each other. I am scared for the small businesses I frequent and hope they will survive. I hope the nightlife community can continue to support each other and push through this. There is so much uncertainty in NYC right now. It hurts.

CANDICE SAINT WILLIAMS, NIGHTLIFE AND PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR

Candice Saint Williams, Saturday May 9: I texted my mom today and asked for my grandmother’s stuffing recipe. I used to look forward to it most every Thanksgiving and Christmas growing up. Perhaps within seeking solace via nostalgia, I’ve begun to crave it.

Like many others, I’ve spent most of the lockdown in the kitchen. Sharing photos of perfectly curated meals isn’t my objective. I cook because I simply cannot focus and sustenance prepared from my hands, washed and washed repeatedly to the point of peeling – shedding – has provided a small amount of joy and necessary re-centering.

Time has shifted. It’s a blur, or every moment is punctuated by an aching staccato. It’s difficult to formalize exactitudes of my emotions. I was focusing too much on my physical body despite the anxiety that ensued from accounting for every ache. When I couldn’t sleep, I scanned the news. I’ve since placed that on a moratorium. I think about writing. If I could write myself and other black people out of this reality.

The ability to speak on this safely from my home in health is a privilege. Collective sadness and grief can be paralyzing but it can also spark necessary change. Returning to normal isn’t an option.

EMILY ALLAN, ACTRESS AND COMEDIENNE

Emily Allan, Tuesday May 12: I’m starting to regret all the years I spent poking fun at the small but prolific community of people in my neighborhood who have dedicated their lives to tracking the activities, conquests and romantic entanglements of the Tompkins Square Park hawks. In our present state of alienated isolation, where my mood basically oscillates between paranoid despair and messianic delusion, and the old phone addiction has progressed to the point of living almost entirely in The Fear, cultish observance of the migratory patterns of local birds seems like a totally honourable form of escapism. 

In early March, right after I lost my service industry jobs, I came home to find a dove had built her nest on the fire escape outside my bedroom window. I filmed her on my phone and fantasized about setting up a dovecam, maybe livestreaming the birth. The next morning I woke up next to an abandoned roost, the protective mother having probably relocated to a less surveilled perch to lay her eggs in peace. 

Last week there were blue jays in the air shaft. I heard that some people don’t like jays because they’re mean to other birds, aggressively intimidating and attacking smaller species, cradle robbing nests, and generally being assholes. But they also protect the more vulnerable in their biome, by forming groups to “mob” larger predators like hawks, owls, cats, and humans. Bullying is their love language. Hopefully I’ll be able to focus long enough to read books and watch movies again, soon.

LEAH HENNESSEY, ACTRESS, COMEDIENNE AND MUSICIAN

Leah Hennessey, Sunday May 10: For the first time in my adult life I have a bike; a blue Schwinn beach cruiser. I put a Fiorucci sticker on the crossbar that matches so it looks like a Fiorucci bike. It’s useless for going uphill, so I mostly ride on the bike path. Leaving my apartment, I ride by sick people, curled up, coughing on the bench of the median strip. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never felt scared of homeless people. Now I watch myself avoiding them like lepers. I guess I’m avoiding everyone like they’re lepers. Broadway is a wasteland.

The cherry trees blossomed for twice as long this Spring. Getting off the street and onto the bike path feels like passing through Tartarus and entering the Elysian Fields. It’s easy to make assumptions – here are the rich people, they are not affected – but this kind of othering of people dedicated to fitness is precisely what’s kept me from not exercising my whole life. 

Mostly I’m home in my apartment with no sunlight. I buy used books online. Sometimes I’m in such a twilit state of consciousness that reading makes me fall asleep, so my boyfriend and I read most of our books out loud. I read while he does the dishes, he reads while I bite my nails. 

Our band has a new single out, and we do lots of livestreams. In some ways getting dressed up to sing in my living room is better than lugging gear home on the subway at 4am. We’re working on a concept album, and the paranoid approach to research for the project keeps me at the edge of my nerves.

RUBY MCCOLLISTER, ACTRESS AND COMEDIENNE

Ruby McCollister, Wednesday May 13: It’s hard to understand exactly what New York is these days.

And I hesitate to make any proclamation. Which is hard because I’m a loud mouth actress and comedienne so I always want to state SOMETHING... but something definitive seems crass nowadays.

Everything is moment to moment.

Currently I am living between my apartment in Brooklyn and my mother’s house near the Cloisters museum, (a hodgepodge of medieval monks barracks (cloisters) from Spain and Italy that Rockefeller shipped over from Europe at the turn of the 20th century to house the Metropolitan Museum’s extensive Medieval Christian art archive, including the beloved Unicorn Tapestries.) But that is now closed. So I just look at this magical structure from a far, watching the summer flowers bloom and turn green around it. The park, next to my mother’s house is a respite for the city that quite frankly doesn’t know what to do with itself. I wander around the Fort Tryon park, thinking about the city’s essential need for beautiful parks.

I dress up to go to the park, especially with heels, as vague performance art. An actress undercover walking her dog through a pandemic. I love that. And its not too far from the truth. I write, or try to. I sew. I look at my dog.

The dust bowl is on my mind frequently, and I play out imaginary romances alone in my room pretending I am in some hotel in the middle of nowhere Missouri 1931. Many of my projects I’m currently working on are based in the Dust Bowl and I have begun collecting Sugar Sack and Flour Sack dresses (my new collection); which are dresses that homemakers in the Depression would make out of literal Sugar and Flour Sacks. They’re unreal.

I recently cut my hair shorter to look like a movie star in the 70’s imitating a movie star from the 40’s. I cut my hair myself in the mirror, so the lasting effect is probably different from my intent: I don’t know if it comes across.

My hair cut, like many other things in life now, is based purely in fantasy.

My urgency to live has also become fantastical. I was recently riding my bike up and down Manhattan’s west side and I passed a man wearing a shirt that read: “Here to protect a fantasy.” That was it. That was everything.

I desperately miss the life I had, though I would be upset if it returned back to normal instantly. There's something about going through this, that I feel isn’t completed, a consciousness, or a spiritual swiftness that hasn’t descended yet.

I enjoy being in the city and seeing people on the street despite the panic. The city, even in its wreckage, constantly unfolds a charitable, generous vivaciousness over and over again. I love that. 

Living in New York, especially now, is the struggle to retain a sense of glamour and dignity in these critical times. 

But I love New York, forever.

Team Credits, What Happened to the New York Underground: Hair Dylan Chavles at Art Department using Oribe, make-up Emi Kaneko at Bryant Artists using Chanel Beauty, photography assistant Pierre Crosby, styling assistant Marcus Cuffie, hair assistant Marilyn Lizardo, make-up assistants Rose Grace, Mical Klip

Team Credits, New York’s New Wave: Hair Dylan Chavles at Art Department using Evo, make-up Ingeborg using M.A.C, set design Mila Taylor-Young, photography assistant Sham Scott, location manager Marcus Chang at Batu Projects, production Emma Yun at Home Agency